Archive for August, 2011

A Communication Must – Do Unto Others

My very first job as a manager came with a boss who was a fairly new director and an internal client with extremely high expectations that weren’t being met.  I learned one of the most valuable lessons from them and this lesson came into play yesterday at work in multiple conversations so I decided it was meant to be put on paper (or in a blog post).

The client that I was responsible for working with was frustrated.  The system that my team supported was unstable, and this was causing revenue to be delayed and expenses to increase due to increased downtime for her team.  She felt out of control because she could not directly fix the issues, felt uninformed, and had no clear plan from anyone in IT on resolution.  So my boss decided that we should have a defined communication plan.  A special form was drafted and was to be sent out to a specific list of people every time we had a system issue of high severity.  There was a schedule of communication updates to be sent based on the severity of the issue.  There were two more forms to fill out post-resolution of the issue to make sure that the client understood root cause and irreversible corrective action.  There was a meeting to be held weekly to review this information as a client/IT group.

At the time, as a new manager, I had a hard time explaining to my IT team, who had just worked 18 hours straight on an issue, as to why we had to train them on this new routine, and expect this many new forms to be filled out just to make one person happier.  I wish I could go back in time and do it again as I have a much simpler way to explain it now.

Do Unto Others.  When I go to the mechanic to have my car worked on, I get nervous.  I am handing this person the keys to my freedom.  I hate being without a car.  And to this mechanic, I am just another customer impatiently wanting to know when their car will be fixed when he/she has not even looked under the hood yet.  But I have found the mechanic of my dreams.  When I drop off my keys, Scott (works at Olathe Toyota) says to me “I’ll call you when we know what the issue is, and how much it will be, or in 3 hours, whichever is less”.  And he does call.  Then he sets new communication expectations based on the situation.  He is a dream come true!  I don’t feel like I need to call and check on my car every hour.  I do not feel out of the loop or out of control with the situation.  One simple step makes all the difference.

In IT, we should consider doing the same.  Our clients feel out of control when a system has an issue.  They are not in our field and most do not understand (or want to understand) how our systems work the way they do.  They just want them to work!  Instead of saying “we are working on it” or not saying anything at all during a production situation, why not set an expectation?  Whether via forms and emails like I did in my first position (which was appropriate given the climate I was working in and the severity/history of the situation) or whether you use a simple email or phone call, just let your primary stakeholders know what is going on and when they will hear from you next.  Stick to your word!  If you say 3 hours or less, hit that mark precisely.  Even be early if possible but do not set an expectation to communicate and then drop the ball.  If you are swamped with the issue, you can always ask someone on your team to do it.  The point is that someone in IT updates the client/stakeholders with an update that is accurate (at the time) and gives them a sense of what is going on.

I think it’s time that I call up that first boss and go to lunch with her again.  She gave me a lesson (really quite a few of them) that I will keep forever.

I would love to hear other ideas for how to improve communication particularly during a high stress situation.  Leave a comment or drop me an email at


August 25, 2011 at 6:26 am Leave a comment

Taking Control

I had the perfect work day today.  They are rare in IT because we live in a world of firefighting and urgency.  Not that rolling up my sleeves and getting something fixed isn’t fun, but it’s not really how I want to spend every day.

Today was perfect because I had no meetings.  Jealous?  Really – no meetings!  Nothing on my calendar.  Nothing to anticipate except lunch and when my glass of tea would be empty requiring a trip to the breakroom.

So why is this so miraculous and rare?  I know better than to let my calendar control me.  I know better than to accept EVERY meeting maker sent to me.  Yet, I get caught up in the same pace as everyone else.  It’s time for a Call for Change!

Cancel meetings that do not have all of the required stakeholders – if you are just going to have to repeat yourself, or worse, have the meeting again – cancel it.  Don’t waste the time of the others involved.

Decline meetings where you were included as a FYI.  As the host to publish notes and/or action items so you can stay informed but don’t take up a chair if you are not a decision maker or someone critically in need of information.

Block time on your calendar to get work done.  I get to work as early at 6:15am and do try to leave by 5pm – only to log on again at home later at night.  Honestly, I don’t sleep much so this is okay for me but I do this often because I am in meetings from 8am-4pm.  I might be more productive if I blocked a couple of hours a day (or week) to get work done.

Delegate to others instead of doing yourself.  Instead of getting others to step up and take accountability, how often do we step into their shoes and “pitch in”?  Time for everyone to pitch in towards accomplishing shared objectives.

Stop emailing and take a walk.  Pick up a phone.  I spend so much time responding to email when a 10 minute conversation would probably suffice.  And if it’s important for us to make sure we are on the same page, share information with a peer, or capture the special moment that we shared – I can ALWAYS type it up in an email afterwards (one single email versus how many back & forth).

What do you do to take control of your work life and (attempt to) make it a perfect day?

August 23, 2011 at 9:21 pm 2 comments

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